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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 29th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Analysis: Political risks of striking Syria

The Obama administration has messaging challenges when it comes to Syria.

Grading President Barack Obama's selling of his administration's plan in Syria, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen said, "It's totally incomplete at the moment. You have to give him a C-."

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday, "The credibility of the Assad regime here is obviously close to zero. And it is our firm conviction that Syria's future cannot include Assad in power."

That same day, Carney also told reporters, "I want to make clear that the options we are considering are not about regime change."

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke forcefully about Syria on Monday, and Vice President Joe Biden followed suit Tuesday, but there has been no solid, firm words on the subject from the president.

"It would have been better had he been taking the lead from the start. You even have to ask should he have drawn the red line way back when. Would he have been doing this if he had not drawn that red line in an off-handed comment? I'm not sure that he would," said Gergen.

Time magazine has a cover story on Obama's dilemma in Syria, dubbing the president, "The Unhappy Warrior," saying he is not pleased with the decisions he has to make.

"I don't think there's any president who would ever be happy at being faced with the idea of having to use military force," said former white house communications director Anita Dunn.

"There is absolutely no reason to rush, but there is every reason in the world to look at how we exercise our obligations as a world leader," said Dunn.

But being thoughtful is sometimes viewed as the opposite of being decisive.

"I think we've seen reckless in the past," said Dunn, adding, "you would want the president to think this through and, you know, talk to world leaders, meet with his team, look at all the options before moving."

Republican senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham have been calling for action in Syria for years, but are not jumping to the president's side and defending the policies or actions the administration is thinking of taking now.

'Folks on Capitol Hill have been very reluctant and careful about saying what the president should or should not do," said CNN political contributor and former adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign Kevin Madden. Madden added that the president should speak for the country when it comes to dictating foreign policy.

"The problem here for the president ... is the lack of clarity and lack of confidence," said Madden.

For more analysis, check out the video above.

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